Have you heard of Boston City Singers? They are an amazing Dorchester-based nonprofit that has been serving our community for over 25 years. Founded in 1995 by Jane E. Money (more on her later!). Boston City Singers started out as a Dorchester-based satellite division of Youth pro Musica. Its mission is to provide outstanding music training opportunities to low and moderate-income inner-city youth in the communities in which they live.
Since their inception, Boston City Singers has provided the highest level of creative youth development opportunities to underserved young people. They now serve ages 4 – high school in in Dorchester at the Epiphany School, in Jamaica Plain at Hope Central Church and in North Cambridge at St. James’s Episcopal Church. Their small group of dedicated staff are all residents of the communities that they serve and are all highly qualified instructors and administrators who themselves have many years of experience working with youth and nonprofit organizations. They are former and current teachers, conductors, accompanists, and teaching fellows from local conservatories. Many have come from area conservatories.
Boston City Singers believes that art should be an integral part of every child’s education. They believe that students should be taught using the STEAM method as opposed to the STEM approach that is widely used in schools. Students who receive a STEAM education engage in experiential learning, collaborate with others, and persist in problem-solving as they take thoughtful risks and work through the creative process. In fact, many employers, educators, and parents believe STEAM helps fill in a gap left by STEM of key skills and attributes children need to thrive.
In 1995 there were not many options available to students who wanted to explore the arts. While Boston City Singers administrators acknowledge that things have improved in the past 25 years there is still work to be done. They were happy to point out that schools are offering more art course. In fact, there is now a school in the Boston Public School district named the Boston Arts Academy, “the city’s only public high school for the visual and performing arts, serving students who reflect the diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods. “Research has found that neighborhoods with the lowest percentages of youth tend to have more art-focused programs. Whereas cities with the higher populations of youth have fewer programs available. According to the most recent census data 23.5% of Dorchester’s population is made up of children 18 and under. This is 7% higher than the average Boston neighborhood of 16.6%.
This is where Boston City Singers steps in. They bridge the gap that exists in schools. They offer additional after-school music courses to students including programs like Kodaly Singing Classes (ages 4 – K2) and Melody Makers (Grades 1 – 2) which focus on developing musicianship through singing rounds, beginning to perform two-part music and sing partner songs. Children can connect with each other and develop their skills as individual singers. They also offer Training Chorus programs for those in grades 3-5 and programs for grade 6 through high school. Teens in Dorchester’s Vocalise is a weekly 2-hour intensive chorus program that concentrates on music literacy and vocal coaching. Singers prepare music in three to four parts in multiple languages. They perform at several regional events, festivals and concerts each year, including those with full orchestra. A similar program, Cantare, is headquartered in North Cambridge.
The 40 voice Tour Choir often rehearses between 2 and 7 hours each week in preparation for bi-annual international 3-week tour that aims to immerse members into the communities they are visiting. In the last 15 years the Tour choir has been to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Costa Rico, Argentina, South Africa, the Czech Republic, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. But this is no vacation, said Melissa J. Graham, Boston City Singers’ Managing Director. She continued, “Singers often perform 20-30 songs at dozens of solo, pop-up and collaborative concerts in schools and churches, and on mountain tops and public squares. And the singers come back changed – more confident in their abilities and themselves and with a better perspective of the world. They develop longstanding relationships and come to have a better understanding of what life is like outside the United States.“ Boston City Singers’ families have also hosted traveling choirs from all over the world in their homes.
One hundred percent of Boston City Singers graduates are accepted to 4-year colleges and universities. Staff, board members, alumni, and community volunteers help singers prepare for college – visiting colleges, critiquing essays, test preparation as needed, interview and audition preparations and connecting students with financial aid opportunities. They also nominate several students yearly for Posse Award consideration. According to their website, “The Posse Foundation identifies, recruits and trains individuals with extraordinary leadership potential. Posse Scholars receive full-tuition leadership scholarships from partner schools.” After extensive training, students arrive at their chosen schools with their own posse, providing the supportive environment they need to succeed. Once earning the title of Posse Scholar, these remarkable students have 100% of their tuition covered and receive additional financial assistance to cover other expenses.
The dedicated staff at Boston City are committed to inspiring personal journeys, bridging opportunity and educational gaps, celebrating diversity, and fostering goodwill. Their strengths lie in the fact that they live in the communities they serve and everyone on the team has an unwavering commitment to social justice and acceptance of differences across socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, and gender preference.
Find out more below
Read more about Co founder of Boston City Singer Jane E Money
Allow us to introduce you to Jane Money, the founder of Boston City Singers. Born and raised in New Zealand, Jane’s initial exposure to the arts were through her grandparents who were skilled musicians. While supportive of her, Jane joked that her parents did not “get the same training” as her grandparents. Jane recalled that her parents always encouraged her to follow her passions, “When I wanted to learn the piano, they bought me a piano and paid for lessons.” When she wanted to study other instruments, they provided her with those opportunities. In New Zealand they offer students in public schools’ opportunities to learn how to play a wide variety of instruments.
Jane would go on to pursue her passion in college, earning master’s degrees in music from Auckland University, in music education from Trinity College of Music in London and in engineering from Boston University. Jane and her husband moved to Dorchester in the mid-1980s where she would spend years working as an engineer and raising her family of four children, who all sing and have attended a choir school or graduated from Boston City Singers. All her children have gone onto work in fields that they are passionate about. One is a physician and the others followed in their mom’s footsteps as engineers, with her youngest son in the United States Space Force.
When her children were young, Jane noticed that Boston Public schools did not offer a wide variety of arts programs as they did in New Zealand. Her goal in founding Boston City Singers was to recreate the community singing experience that she had as a child. So, she co-founded Boston City Singers in 1995 as a division of Youth Pro Musica. Jane recalled that her first event was putting together a group of over 20 local children and to perform at the Annual Ashmont Tree Lighting. The initial success of this event proved to Jane that her program was needed in the community. It motivated her to push forward with the work.
Boston City Singers has performed for major music conferences in Boston, for Chorus America, American Choral Directors Association, and American Guild of Organists. She is a member of the Celebrity Series of Boston Community Engagement Committee, Boston City Singers Board of Directors, and American Choral Directors Association where she co-founded “The Big Sing,” annual festivals for young choirs from around New England. She has been recognized for her work with urban youth from numerous civic, educational and arts organizations.
Although the program has grown a lot over 25 years, Jane’s role hasn’t really changed. She is actively involved in teaching students, expanding the program, and developing new relationships. Jane particularly enjoys making New Zealand recipes for her students. She added “it’s great preparation for when they travel internationally.”
Jane has developed Boston City Singers Tour Choir, a program offered to its most senior students. Part of the training they receive is to prepare them to “negotiate with the manners of a diplomat” when traveling abroad. Jane added, “There is much to be gained by having young people experience life in Cape Town, South Africa for three weeks.” She added, “Witnessing what happens when you sing music well in another country’s tradition” is a powerful experience that leaves a lasting impression on everyone. People come out from all over the place to watch and sing along. It’s especially rewarding when people ask, “are you from here”? This shows that Boston City Singers is succeeding in their effort to teach students how to sing in the most authentic manner possible. Although she enjoys going on these intensive world tours, Janes is currently focused on getting everyone back in person. She added, “Due to the pandemic, we have not sung together in person for almost two years.”
Jane enjoys finding what other people’s strengths are and enabling them to work with singers to empower them to continue to grow. She is proud to have a staff that best represents the community that they serve. Jane and the team at Boston City Singers are always on the lookout for people who have the range of skills that represent the ever growing and evolving demographics of Dorchester. As the community grows, so will Boston City Singers.
Jane not only has helped to foster the growth of many Dorchester children, but she also works with New England Brittany Rescue where she finds good homes for many rescued dogs. Her commitment to Dorchester and its youth is unmatched! Thank you to Jane for investing so much time and effort into improving Dorchester and specifically helping grow the Ashmont community and its young people.